Initial steps in extending crisis communication theory towards social media crisis dialogue: revisiting situational crisis communication framework

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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International Business
Kansainvälinen liiketoiminta
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Research Summary The main focus of this research is on the study of stakeholders' naturally occurring reactions to corporate crisis and crisis communication. The literature review aimed to combine situational crisis communication framework (SCCT) with the strategic public relations management theory to establish an idea of strategic two-way crisis communication. The case study evidence is drawn from the Toyota USA Facebook site in relation to the Toyota recall crisis in 2009-2011 and studied with content analysis. Objectives of the study The objective of this study is to integrate the study of online stakeholder reactions to the study of the SCCT framework, and consequently take initial steps in extending SCCT towards social media application. This research studies four research questions: 1) How are evaluations of Toyota's reputation by highly involved stakeholders connected to the crisis communication strategies by Toyota on its Facebook site?, 2) How are the crisis communication strategies used by Toyota in relation to the SCCT framework?, 3) How do highly involved stakeholders attribute blame for the recall crisis?, and 4) How do highly involved consumers evaluate different dimensions of Toyota's reputation?. Conclusions The actual crisis related reactions by the fans of the Toyota USA Facebook site were found to differ from the predictions of SCCT in terms of stakeholders' acceptance of Toyota's victim communication strategy, blame attributions and evaluations of Toyota's reputation. The results of this study confirm the need for more complex crisis communication theories that include evaluation of actual stakeholder reactions in planning and adapting the crisis response.
content analysis, corporate crisis, crisis communication, Facebook, involvement, product recall, situational crisis communication theory, Toyota
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